Review: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1

Written by Brian Michael Bendis

Art by Sara Pichelli

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 is very close to being an excellent comic.  This issue is all about a specific time in the childhood of the new Spider-Man, Miles Morales, where he’s accepted into a charter school and, well, his secret origin is revealed.  All of this is done superbly, and really sets him apart from Peter Parker as a likable character in his own right.

 

The book opens with Norman Osborn and one of his scientists working on a spider to create a new Spider-Man powered person.  This is, in essence, a prologue to this issue, which is a prologue in and of itself.  As such, and due to how short on space this issue is, the spider, and it’s fate could really have stood to take up less than the eight pages they did, and this is especially notable since it’s all extremely predictable stuff that could have been handled perfectly effectively in a Grant Morrison “doomed planet” manner.

 

From here, we get young Miles with his parents going to the charter school lottery.  It isn’t much of a spoiler to see he gets in, but what this really sets up are both his parents and the other characters who are accepted into the school.  While a bit of this is Bendis’ dialogue, especially establishing that Miles’ mother is a bit overbearing, while his father is the relatable parent, much more comes through from Sara Pichelli’s superb facial expressions.  The best of these is the shot of a downcast Miles between his bored father and praying mother.  Also notable, however, is that we get two other characters in this scene, a boy and a girl, who were also accepted to the same school, and, without a line of dialogue, we learn a lot about them and how they feel about their luck.

 

In fact, the detail of the art is the absolute strongest point in this issue.  Every crowd scene is fully realized.  I’m from New York City and this is one of the extremely few times in any comic that someone has nailed the people and feeling of the city, from the clothes and body types to the claustrophobic feeling that causes one to feel closed in with oneself.  It’s really wonderfully done.

 

I suppose here we must mention the role race and class play in the issue, since it was such a sticking point for so many fans.  Well, there was very little role of race, and as for class? Well, if parents wanting their child to have a better life than they did and people living in apartment buildings are major class indicators to you, then yes, his class was a factor.  Even so, while there is mention of a struggle growing up, young Miles has what is mostly a good life with caring parents and an Uncle Aaron who clearly has some more sinister ties.  It would be easy, however, to play that off as a cliché, when instead, this is the full on Marvel Universe character that has a hidden backstory.  It’s a neat play on expectations and one that totally fits the story.

 

Finally, towards the end of the issue, Miles gets his powers.  They’re neatly hinted as being different than Peter’s and then?  The story just ends.  Yes, this is a $3.99 20-page comic.  The book set up a really wonderful character – the best iteration of the young hero since at least Blue Beetle, perhaps since Ultimate Spider-Man first launched – with what is already an interesting and well-developed world, but, unfortunately, it was all exposition set years ago with very little conflict.  This wasn’t a full chapter and the supposed cliffhanger wasn’t set up well and, really, doesn’t beg for a revelation.  Wanting the second issue is more due to liking the characters, and with Issue 2 out in 2 weeks I won’t have time to forget about them, than anything the plot offers me.  I’ll be getting the next issue, but if the plotting remains so glacial, this is going to be an easy book to just trade wait for.

 

Rating: 7.5/10

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